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Special Events Gift Officer

Company: The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens
Date Posted: June 26, 2017

The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens

Job Title:             Development Department: Special Events Gift Officer    (FT, Exempt) 

About The Living Desert:

The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens in Palm Desert, CA, is a special place of natural desert beauty dedicated to educating children and adults about desert wildlife, cultivating awareness of endangered desert plants and animals, fostering appreciation for the planet's diverse desert species, and inspiring action to save desert wildlife from becoming extinct.

With more than 600 animals and 145 species in the park, The Living Desert welcomes over 400,000 annual visitors. Since opening in 1970 the park has grown to become a participant in global efforts to save endangered desert animals as well as a local scientific resource for desert ecosystem information.

Position Summary:

The Living Desert is currently seeking a candidate to join our Development team as the Special Events Gift Officer. This full-time, exempt Development Officer will work with the Director of Development, President/CEO, Development Staff, and appropriate Board and volunteer committees to progressively build the fundraising capacity of The Living Desert. The Special Events Gift Officer will play both external and internal roles planning, managing and executing a program of fundraising, cultivation and stewardship events. Key responsibilities include planning and analyzing cost-effective development events, forming relationships with and soliciting event sponsors and donors for Park events as well as donor-based events, setting revenue goals, coordinating and managing sponsors, vendors, employees and volunteers for development events.

Specific Tasks: 

  1. Annual Gala Event (45%)

Serve as the Development Team leader of the signature Annual Gala event.

  • In association with the Board of Trustees Gala Chair(s), determine the theme and overall plan for an annual event at least six months ahead of the planned program.
  • Manage Gala committee and tasks associated with volunteer responsibilities including meeting dates and location, noticing to members, agenda and minutes.
  • Manage all details of the event, including, but not limited to: reservations, menu and beverage selection and contracting, special services and entertainment contracting, set-up, save-the-date, invitation mailings and other collateral materials, maintaining reservations and special needs of guests, mapping of event layout, seating chart, and event timeline.
  • Manage solicitations for live and silent auction donations to assure timely receipt of donations and increased capacity for giving through these mechanisms.
  • Serve as the primary point of contact with TLD staff providing support to the event – including but not limited to marketing, special events, park services, animal department and maintenance/facilities.
  • Prepare the event budget and assure performance of the event to meet established financial goals.
  • Develop the guest list for invitations, assuring mailings in a timely manner.
  • Complete event follow-up in a timely manner by issuing performance reports of key data (attendance, income and expenses, etc.) and issuing thank you correspondence to donors, Gala committee and event staff.
  • Post-event, identify prospects from guest lists for cultivation and moves management strategies, ensuring continuing relationships are developed.  

2. Park Special Events Support (25%)

  • Prepare timeline of annual community events in conjunction with Park Services/Marketing/Events and Promotions departments including but not limited to:
    • Howl-O-Ween
    • WildLights
    • Brew at the Zoo
    • La Gran Fiesta, Eggstravaganza, etc.
    • Create and secure sponsorships and underwriting goals for park events from individuals, corporate and business relationships. This requires developing outside community relationships through Chamber meetings, establishing regular contact with the business community and working with TLD Business Membership Manager.

 3. Donor Cultivation and Stewardship Events (15%)


  • Plan and execute (with other Development Officers) donor-related cultivation and stewardship events, receptions and other gatherings for donors, members and prospects, e.g., WildLights (Major Donor, Berger, Indian Wells Nights); Heritage Society events; donor appreciation events, President’s Speaker Series, etc.
  • Manage life cycle of events including reviewing performance, recommending improvements, total recap of events.
  • Prepare and monitor event expense budget and revenue reporting for assigned projects.

4. General Support (10%)

  • Conduct tours for donors, event sponsors, community officials, non-profit donation certificate fulfillment, and special guests of TLD as requested by DoD and CEO.
  • Represent the Development department as staff liaison on TLD meetings.
  • Develop and maintain positive working relationships with each of the following key staff needed to support the activities of this position:
    • Food and beverage service contractor
    • Maintenance Department
    • Education Department
    • Animal Services Department
    • Park Services Department
  • Deal courteously and effectively with the public at all times, and represent the institution at the highest standard of professionalism
  • Establish and maintain effective and professional working relationship with co-workers and other Development personnel.
  • Other related responsibilities as necessary to accomplish Department objectives, and as assigned by the Director of Development.
  • Participate in all park strategic, master and development planning as directed.
  • Maintain expenses within or below approved budget figures.

 5. Community-Based Fundraising Special Events (5%)

  • Cultivate a minimum of four (4) outside companies/businesses to host an event at their location during the fiscal year with the goal of average financial return of $2,000 per event.
  • Plan events with donor/host to maximize their benefit, as well as that of TLD.
  • Coordinate with departments at TLD to provide support to these events as appropriate and planned (e.g., WOW van, animals, docents, education staff, etc.).
  • Prepare and implement marketing strategies for each of these events and work with in-house staff to design and distribute information, with a focus on web-based and website notifications.

Equipment Used: computer, copy machine, fax machine, golf cart, printer, scanner, telephone, two-way radio.

Specific Skills:

  • Understanding of basic principles of special events fundraising.
  • Cultivating and stewarding donors in a membership-based organization.
  • Proficiency with Microsoft Office software.
  • Proficiency with constituent relationship management system databases. (DonorPerfect is our current program.)
  • Outstanding organizational skills.
  • Excellent written and oral communications skills.
  • Ability to develop and work within an established budget.
  • Ability to respond to and handle problems in a positive, service-oriented manner.
  • Willingness to form professional networking relationships with other institutions and local businesses.
  • Ability to work with others in a team setting.
  • Work in a small department where hands-on participation is needed.

Physical Position Description:

ESSENTIAL PHYSICAL TASKS:  Sitting at a workstation for limited periods of time; working on a computer for limited periods of time, standing, walking, sitting, bending, twisting, reaching motions; occasional carrying items weighting up to 50 pounds; driving a golf cart safely with guests.  Able to stand/walk for extended periods of time, related to event management.

TYPICAL WORKING CONDITIONS: Working in an office environment – no unusual 

exposures; occasional working outdoors in extreme heat or moderate cold for periods of time; occasional work off-grounds in the community.

HOLIDAY/EVENING WORK:  Occasional need for holiday/evening work for special events.

TRAVEL:  Occasional local and long-distance travel may be required.


MINIMUM EDUCATION/CERTIFICATION REQUIRED: Bachelor’s Degree in related field (business administration, sales/marketing preferred) or equivalent Fund-Raising Certification (CFRE).

MINIMUM EXPERIENCE REQUIRED: Four years’ recent experience in development or business with emphasis on administrative skills and customer service.

SKILLS REQUIRED: Previous background should include demonstrated ability to work with others in developing special events for a business or nonprofit organization; must be excellent communicator, both verbally and in writing; demonstrated ability to deal appropriately with individuals from a wide range of backgrounds and experiences; well versed in the protocols of fund development related to elevating donors to greater levels of giving (i.e., moves management); proficient working knowledge of DonorPerfect or related fundraising database programs, and Microsoft Office applications (Word, Excel, etc.).

OTHER:  Must hold a valid California driver’s license and be insurable on The Living Desert’s automobile policy.

If you are interested in this position please submit your cover letter, resume, and salary requirements to Jan Hawkins, Director of Development.  You may send your submission electronically to or you may mail your submission to The Living Desert, 47900 Portola Ave., Palm Desert, CA 92260, Attn. Jan Hawkins. The deadline for all submissions is July 30, 2017.